From the YouTube series Buzzfeed Unsolved and a whole sleuth of other content (shows, films, podcasts, you name it!), people's morbid curiosity with true crime has never been easier to capitalize on.
Such content has captured the interest and attention of millions of people around the world, and if you’re looking for a quick but gripping and intelligently crafted television series to watch through midterm season, “Only Murders in the Building" is a perfect fall watch.
This Hulu mystery-comedy series stars the uncannily charismatic trio of Steve Martin, Martin Short, two legendary comedians and close friends, and beloved "Wizards of Waverly Place" star Selena Gomez.
The show was executively produced by the three lead actors and the compelling story was co-created by Martin and John Hoffman. And as a fan of Martin’s previous foray into solving crime as the silly, stereotypical French inspector Jacques Clouseau in the “Pink Panther” films, I was instantly drawn to this show.
The show follows a rag-tag bunch of true crime lovers living in a luxurious New York City apartment building, grandly called The Arconia, as they attempt to unravel the murder of a fellow resident, Tim Kono (Julian Cihi), through starting their own podcast.
The three protagonists and co-creators of the fictional podcast keep you intrigued with their emotional depth, ridiculous comedic timing, ever changing circumstances and complicated inner lives. Not to mention, the elements of mystery and surprise are perfected in a rare way that’s both jaw-dropping and heart-warming.
The central trio we follow consists of: Charles-Haden Savage (Martin), an aging and lonely actor hanging on to the successes of his past, Oliver Putnam (Short), a broke and disgraced Broadway director with a zest for entertainment, and Mabel Mora (Gomez), a moody, artistically-inclined woman in her late 20s who is grappling with a series of emotional losses and nostalgia.
Apart from the brilliant plot that thickens with each episode, the characters of the show are what I'm really attached to as a viewer. Each character brings a unique viewpoint to the narrative, with episode seven, “The Boy From 6B,” being presented to the audience from a deaf character’s perspective and introducing an underrepresented mode of narration that demands that we see the story with close attention.
I religiously woke up early on Tuesdays since the series' release to follow the show's riveting investigation, and was never disappointed by how each episode took a novel, creative approach to exploring a new suspect, tying (or untying) a loose end and making new discoveries.
"Only Murders in the Building" is full of little clues: The title credits with its joyfully exciting score, The New Yorker-magazine-style fonts and animated characters containing tidbits of useful information for the audience to discern.
Many shots throughout the show mimic the credits’ voyeuristic and shifting gaze into neighbors’ windows and ponder who Tim’s murderer could be. Other exciting clues include: tie-dye hoodies, cats and dogs, rings, bassoons, sex toys and the Hardy Boys. Evidently, “Only Murders in the Building” had me hanging on to the edge of my seat with each passing week.
The most beautiful, expectedly unexpected part of the show is the chemistry and earnest friendship between Charles and Oliver, two old white men holding on to the celebrity and familial love they experienced early in their careers, and Mabel, who they quickly cherish as though she were their adopted Latina daughter.
Each character is incredibly alone in their little worlds. The community they find in one another through their podcasting endeavors makes their world a little bigger and temporarily brighter, albeit much more chaotic with the consequences of publicly unpacking a gruesome murder mystery.
From their day-to-day interactions navigating the greatest city in the world, their many hours spent together at the microphone of a podcast and their board of evidence against Arconia residents-turned-suspects, I loved watching the serendipitous but strong relationship between Charles, Oliver and Mabel grow as episodes went on.
Despite the glaring generational divide and gaps in communication styles, the solving of Tim’s murder entangles these three previously separate Arconian lives together.
The exceptional cast of main and supporting characters consists of big names in film, theater and TV like Tina Fey and Nathan Lane, as well as newer on-screen presences like Aaron Dominguez. The show also features a star-studded lineup of guest stars including Jane Lynch, Jimmy Fallon, Jaboukie Young-White, Ali Stroker and U2 lead singer Sting (who funnily enough becomes a major plot point early on in the show).
The first season of "Only Murders in the Building" has now come to an end with a rather stark but still amazing cliffhanger to launch the characters I’ve invested in these past few weeks into a renewed season two, with a fresh, messy crime. If you’re like me and enjoy true crime without the excessive gore, this show is a perfectly palatable program that still gets into the grisly nitty-gritty of the mystery at hand.
The wholesome generational divide sparks some good laughs and interesting conversations among the charming main characters of "Only Murders in the Building," so the adventurous adventures of Charles, Oliver and Mabel are some you really wouldn’t want to miss. Even if true crime with lots of twists and turns isn’t your thing, I think there’s a place for anyone and everyone at The Arconia.